The overarching aim of the research is to provide scientifically-grounded, policy-relevant information on the synergies and trade-offs between selected sustainable development goals and targets within the Luanhe river basin in China. We hypothesise that trade-offs between SDG goals and targets at the sub-national scale create inequalities between segments of society when attempting to achieve the SDGs at the national level. The river basin scale is our unit of analysis to represent the sub-national scale in this research and constitutes an ideal geography for the study of human-environment interactions as cause-effect relationships related to human activities can be investigated within clearly defined physical boundaries.

To test the hypothesis and achieve the main research aim, four specific objectives are being investigated.

First, future land-use change scenarios will be developed for the Luanhe basin. This component will be participatory by engaging with different levels of stakeholders, ranging from community leaders to representatives of national authorities, supplemented by analysis of historical land-use changes in the basin as influenced by past and current policies. Land-use change scenarios will serve as a basis for all subsequent research activities in the project.

Second, sediment budgets, flood risk and water quality will be modelled for the different land use change scenarios. The modelling will specifically account for the effects of rapid urbanization in the basin as well as reservoir operation. Model outputs will be used to analyse and quantify the impact on future flood risk, long-term sediment budget, and water quality, and so will support the identification of trade-offs between different SDGs.

Third, ecosystem services and disservices for different land use change scenarios will be analysed for the entire basin. This will be achieved through participatory approaches, notably through expert panels to derive capacity matrices. The expert panels will be convened in various localities in the basin to reflect different impacts of urbanization and infrastructure development as well as different perceptions on ecosystems services depending on spatial location affected by basin-level management. Changes in ecosystem services will be visualized through GIS for the different scenarios.

Last, the SDG Interlinkages Tool, developed by IGES, will be extended to operationalise it at the basin scale and visualise the synergies and trade-offs between the selected SDGs. This will be achieved by incorporating results from all other specific objectives above.

This project has been funded by: